Israeli judge endorses Jewish prayer on contested Temple Mount
By Sara Lemel
TEL AVIV – A judge in Israel on Wednesday (6) endorsed allowing Jews to pray on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, a decision that has the potential to aggravate religious conflict in the region.
A Jerusalem judge signalled support for Jews to have the right to silent prayer at the contested Temple Mount, a hill that is home to the al-Aqsa Mosque and the adjacent Dome of the Rock.
The case was heard in a magistrate court – the lowest judicial body in Israel – and amounts more to an endorsement than a legal ruling.
But the fear is that the judge’s words could upset the fragile balance at a place seen as a powder keg due to its importance to both Muslims and Jews.
An Islamic religious authority administers the site in the Old City of Jerusalem while Israel is responsible for security.
According to a long-standing understanding, which is not codified in law, Muslims may worship on the Temple Mount while Jews are allowed to visit but not pray there. Jews are allowed to pray at the nearby Western Wall.
Israeli media reported that more and more Jews have been ignoring the ban and ascending the Temple Mount to pray.
The judge’s ruling could make the practice more common, although higher courts can also weigh in.
The magistrate judge’s ruling concerned the case of a devout Jew who, she said, had been praying daily on the Temple Mount “like many others.”
Palestinians view visits by Jews to the site as a provocation and accuse Israel of systematically trying to undermine earlier agreements in order to expand its own control.
Bloody confrontations between Palestinians and Israeli security forces have repeatedly occurred there.
The Temple Mount is the third-holiest site in Islam. It is also venerated by Jews because the First and Second Jewish Temple once stood there.